The trade deadline has passed, franchises are gearing up for the playoffs, others are preparing for the upcoming draft and some organizations are making their 2015 free agent wish lists a bit early. Not only will the next few months crown a NBA champion, but the draft, free agency and more trades are in order as well.
Often lost in the free agency hype are the guys heading into next season with non-guaranteed deals. With securing salary cap space always a top priority for front offices around the league, these players could find themselves donning new uniforms as teams look to leverage their respective payrolls.
There are more than a few guys heading into the summer with non-guaranteed deals that are still highly productive. Some are unlikely to be impacted, while a few will be looking for employment elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at some guys with non-guaranteed deals for the 2015-16 campaign:
Brendan Haywood, Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
2015-16 Salary: $10.5 million
Haywood has only logged 21 games with the Cavaliers this season, posting averages of 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest. Haywood has always been a respectable player, but with an eight figure salary for next season it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Haywood remains in Cleveland – especially given his cap impact – even if he was still in his physical prime.
Hassan Whiteside, Center, Miami HEAT
2015-16 Salary: $981k
HEAT team president Pat Riley dug deep into his bag of tricks earlier this season and uncovered a diamond in the rough in Whiteside. The 2010 second-round pick is currently averaging 11.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just 22 minutes per game.
The HEAT won’t be entertaining the thought of releasing Whiteside this summer, but the waters will get murky for the franchise trying to retain him in the summer of 2016 when he will likely command an eight figure annual salary.
Wilson Chandler, Small Forward, Denver Nuggets
2015-16 Salary: $7.2 million
The Denver Nuggets are in the midst of a rebuilding project. After having their postseason streak snapped at 10 last season, the team is also projected to miss out on this year’s festivities. At the trade deadline last month, the word was Denver would listen to all overtures for anyone on their roster. Veterans Arron Afflalo and JaVale McGee were dealt, but Chandler remained in Denver.
Chandler’s non-guaranteed contract could be an asset the rebuilding Nuggets explore leveraging as we approach the draft day frenzy. The veteran is a proven wing scorer and solid talent who could help a veteran team looking to make a deeper playoff push in short order.
Caron Butler, Small Forward, Detroit Pistons
2015-16 Salary: $4.5 million
The former All-Star is winding down a very solid career and still has a bit of gas left in the tank. But will he play with the Pistons next season with a 4.5 million price tag? Butler was signed by the team to be a stabilizing presence in the locker room for new head coach Stan Van Gundy and the team’s young core. Butler has been effective in this role and has also provided the Pistons with quality minutes on the floor as well.
The Pistons have just $28 million in guaranteed salary commitments heading into next season, so the team will be active players in free agency. Butler’s fate could be determined by what talent the Pistons are able to lure to town over the summer.
Ben Gordon, Shooting Guard, Orlando Magic
2015-16 Salary: $4.5 million
Gordon’s career seemingly fell off a cliff during his years in Detroit but there was optimism in Orlando that he could possibly be more than just a veteran locker room presence. For the season, Gordon is averaging less than 15 minutes per contest and looks worlds removed from the 20-point scorer he was in his physical prime.
The Magic have just $38 million in guaranteed salary next season and Gordon’s non-guaranteed final year isn’t a salary crippler, but in the world of trying to secure financial flexibility expect the Magic to take a long look at the veteran’s future with the franchise.
Chris Kaman, Portland Trail Blazers
2015-16 Salary: $5.0 million
Kaman, a former All-Star, was signed to provide depth in the frontcourt behind starter Robin Lopez. The veteran has remained relatively healthy and served as a stabilizing force for the team when Lopez missed extended time earlier in the season.
However, this is a big summer for the Blazers. All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge is set to hit free agency and will command a max deal. Veteran guard Wesley Matthews will also become a free agent this summer and will look to cash in (despite suffering a torn Achilles). Plus the Blazers have a younger and less expensive option in Myers Leonard potentially waiting in the wings for minutes at center.
Kaman has been productive this season and still has game left on those aging legs. But with a non-guaranteed deal and teams always looking to maximize payroll there are no certainties.
Jamal Crawford, Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
2015-16 Salary: $5.7 million
It’s hard to fathom that Crawford has been in the league for 15 seasons but the veteran is still showing no signs of slowing down. Crawford is the Clippers’ third leading scorer this season and even though his contract in non-guaranteed next season, it is highly unlikely the Clippers part ways with the veteran who is an integral part of their current core group.
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